NCBC to summon Karnataka Chief Secretary over Muslim OBC reservation


The National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) has announced its decision to summon the Chief Secretary of the Karnataka government over the issue of Muslim Other Backward Classes (OBC) reservation.

  • This move comes amidst controversy surrounding Karnataka’s categorization of the OBC quota, which provides what is termed as “blanket reservation” to Muslims under Category II-B.

GS-02 (Polity)

Key Highlights:

  • The categorization of Muslims under Category II-B within the OBC quota has raised eyebrows, prompting the NCBC to seek clarification from the Karnataka government.
  • It expressed concern over this separate categorization for Muslims within the OBC quota, particularly given the existence of other Muslim castes already listed under Categories I and II-A.
  • Despite seeking explanations from the State government, the NCBC found the responses regarding Muslim categorization under the OBC quota unsatisfactory.
  • Earlier, in February, the Karnataka government had defended the inclusion of Muslims under Category II-B, citing them as neither caste nor religion but backward classes, as recommended by various state-formed Commissions.
  • Additionally, the NCBC has highlighted the broader implications of Karnataka’s OBC categorization, particularly in local body elections, where it allows all Muslims to contest from any OBC or General category seat. This practice has raised concerns that it might inadvertently sideline other deserving OBC communities, thereby affecting their representation in local governance structures.

Historical Background:

  • The idea of caste-based reservation originated in 1882, conceived by William Hunter and Jyotirao Phule.
  • The present caste-based reservation system was introduced in 1933 through the ‘Communal Award’ by British Prime Minister Ramsay Macdonald.
  • The ‘Poona Pact’ between Gandhi and Ambedkar led to the consolidation of a single Hindu electorate with certain reservations.
  • After independence, reservations were initially provided only for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs), with Other Backward Classes (OBCs) included in 1991 based on the Mandal Commission’s recommendations.

Mandal Commission:

  • It was formed in December 1978 under the chairmanship of B. P. Mandal to define socially and educationally backward classes and recommend measures for their advancement.
  • The Commission proposed 27% reservation in government jobs for OBCs based on various indicators of backwardness.
  • It identified backward classes among Hindus and non-Hindus, generating an extensive OBC list of 3,743 castes.
  • The Supreme Court upheld the 27% quota but limited reservation beneficiaries‘ total count to 50% of the population.
  • The concept of ‘creamy layer’ was introduced to exclude affluent individuals from reservation benefits.

Constitutional Provisions:

  • Articles 15(4) and 16(4) enable reservation for SCs and STs in government services.
  • Article 16(4A) allows reservation in promotions for SCs and STs.
  • Article 16(4B) enables the filling of unfilled SC/ST vacancies in the succeeding year, bypassing the 50% reservation cap.
  • Specific reservation provisions are made in Parliament, State Legislative Assemblies, Panchayats, and Municipalities.

Judicial Scrutiny:

  • The Supreme Court’s judgments in cases like Indra Sawhney and M. Nagaraj have shaped reservation policies.
  • The requirement for social and educational backwardness, inadequate representation, and maintenance of administrative efficiency have been established.
  • The creamy layer exclusion extends to SC/STs, and reservations in promotions require no quantifiable data on backwardness.

Recent Developments:

  • In May 2019, the Supreme Court upheld Karnataka’s law allowing reservations in promotions for SCs and STs with consequential seniority.

Why is reservation necessary?

  • To rectify historical injustices faced by backward castes.
  • To create a fair opportunity for backward sections who lack access to resources and privileges enjoyed by others for centuries.
  • To ensure adequate representation of backward classes in government services.
  • For the advancement of backward communities.
  • To uphold the principle of equality as the basis of meritocracy, ensuring a level playing field for all individuals.

Arguments against reservation:

  • Reservation in state services fosters division and hostility among government employees, disrupting workplace harmony.
  • While reservation aimed to eradicate caste-based discrimination, it inadvertently perpetuates caste distinctions in society.
  • Despite economic progress, socially disadvantaged communities continue to rely on reservation, hindering true social integration.
  • Reservation undermines self-respect, shifting the focus of competition from merit to backwardness.